A Caja Del Rio S24O in the Santa Fe National Forest

Cold nights, clear mornings. It doesn’t get much better than this time of year!

Before the winter solstice brings single-digit temps we embrace our beautiful Caja Del Rio, a volcanic tableland in the Santa Fe National Forest, just a few miles west of town. We live in a semi-arid steppe ecoregion and that means the days can be warm and in the 50º range but the nights will drop into the single digits before too long. This window of opportunity means we gotta get in our S24O – sub-24-hour overnighters – when we can! Luckily, a guy named Kevin hosts periodic overnighters throughout the fall and winter which he announces on his Adventure Bikepacking Instagram account. Yesterday, we met up at the Broken Spoke and pedaled out into the setting sun…

The Caja Del Rio is an interesting geo feature. Abutting the Rio Grande Gorge on the northwestern edge and suburban sprawl and highways to the southeastern, this largely BLM-managed swath of public lands is a juniper flat with volcanic cinder cones and fields of chamisa and cholla cactus. It’s primarily used for welfare ranching – save the west, end socialized ranching! – and shooting ranges but a myriad of double track trails and hardpack gravel makes for plenty of opportunities for mixed-terrain riding.

Once a dense ponderosa forest that supplied the burgeoning town of Santa Fe and its many pueblo-inspired buildings with timber for its vigas, or exposed wood beams, the Caja is now void of any substantial cover from the wind. When the snow falls and our alpine trails get shut down for the season, we flock to these tablelands to put in long and slow winter miles.

With hundreds of miles of roads to meander throughout, it is an ideal locale for a quick overnighter… Enjoy this Sunday afternoon gallery and I hope you’re getting in some pleasant miles.